Our 10 Favorite Health TED Talks From 2015

The non-profit organization TED focuses on spreading inspirational and interesting ideas. Spending a few minutes watching the videos could change your whole day—maybe even your life! From heath and happiness to creativity and vulnerability, TED produces talks from world-leading experts and inspiring everyday people you’ve never heard of.

Feeding your brain with positive messages and then implementing a few of the ideas that most resonate with you could set you on the path to a whole new life.

1. What really matters at the end of life

Dr. BJ Miller knows a thing or two about suffering and the end of life. As a palliative care physician, he works with patients who are experiencing the final transition every day. But for Miller, the interest is personal. He almost died in college after youthful troublemaking antics led to a major electric shock that took both his legs.

Today, Miller works with the dying. A central question he deals with is suffering—that is, which suffering is necessary and which can be changed? The answers to that question have changed the way Miller lives, the way his patients die, and can inform all of our choices, helping us enjoy the most of our time while we’re here.

2. Why we all need to practice emotional first aid

When the body succumbs to sickness or injury, people pay immediate attention, taking whatever action they can to feel better. But when emotional injury strikes, whether that be failure or feelings of loneliness, people often don’t take positive action—perhaps because they don’t know how.

In this moving video, psychologist Guy Winch reveals pivotal moments of loneliness or despair in his own life and how he learned from them to practice emotional first aid.

3. The amazing story of the man who gave us modern pain relief

In this talk, medical historian Latif Nasser tells the story of Dr. John J. Bonica whose interesting double life as a physician and circus wrestler opened his eyes to the patient’s experience of pain. Bonica’s multiple lives gave him the ability to perceive situations from multiple perspectives.

He ultimately realized that although pain was a basic, yet discomforting patient experience, few doctors or medical texts talked about it. Bonica spent his later years devoted to writing books, proposing new treatments, and rallying his colleagues to take patients’ pain seriously. This video tells the story of the man Time magazine once called pain relief’s founding father.

4. Why medicine often has dangerous side effects for women

Did you know that many common pharmaceutical drugs that people take today were only tested in clinical trials on men? Women’s health expert Alyson McGregor discusses why this is and reveals key differences between males and females that make this oversight important. Women will learn the questions they need to ask their doctors to stay safe while taking these medications.

5. Soon we’ll cure diseases with a cell, not a pill

Did you know that of all the chemical reactions in the body, less than 1% are modifiable through current medications? That means the body’s vast and intricate network is only partially open to change through medicine’s current philosophy, what cancer expert Dr. Siddhartha Mukerjee calls “have disease, take pill, kill something.”

This video details what Mukerjee believes is the future of medicine, the idea of using cells to intervene in the way the body functions, by changing the environment rather than homing in on specific cellular processes. The results could be nothing short of transformative.

6. How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Childhood abuse and neglect impacts not only children’s mental health, but also physical health into adulthood, tripling the risk for lung cancer and heart disease, according to pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris. These traumas affect health by triggering changes in the body’s DNA, brain development, immune system functioning, and endocrine system.

In this video, Harris explores the data behind the findings and discusses how people can heal.

7. How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

Stress is endemic among humans, but chronic pain patients experience heightened levels of it. What tools can you use to stay calm? In this video, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin discusses how to make good decisions when under pressure, including a key question to ask your doctor before taking any new prescription medication.

8. You can grow new brain cells. Here’s how

This talk given by researcher Sandrine Thuret reveals the secrets of cutting-edge research into the field of nerve study. Neurogenesis is the process of new neuron development. Researchers have recently uncovered a previously unknown ability of the hippocampus, the section of the brain tied to learning, memory, and emotion—it can also form new neurons in adults.

Watch the video to learn this discovery’s implication on mood, aging, and brain changes related to stress.

9. 10 myths about psychology, debunked

Psychologist Ben Ambridge covers popular misconceptions about this often-discussed topic. Learn why different learning styles don’t exist, the truth about Rorschach inkblot tests, and whether often-proclaimed gender differences actually exist.

10. The power of believing that you can improve

A big part of improving your life is the simple belief that you can. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This powerful video features motivational psychologist Carol Dweck as she discusses the growth mindset—the idea that a person’s brain capacity can expand to solve big problems.

Early in Dweck’s career, she worked with 10-year-olds, testing how they responded to problems seemingly out of their grasp. At that age, some children understood their intellectual abilities could expand. They responded to the problems with enthusiasm, excited for the challenge and to learn new things. They had what Dweck calls a growth mindset.

Other children didn’t have that mindset. They grew frustrated and viewed the challenge as proof of their limitations. She says:

“Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, (the students) were gripped by the tyranny of now.”

Watch this video for inspiration on expanding your mind to reach heights that now only live in your imagination.

What was your favorite TED video this year?

Image by TEDx Somerville via Flickr